Mountain Ridge Sunset

I'll admit that my luck with spectacular sunsets seems to have run dry after my memorable sunset at Horseshoe Bend in December 2016. I have gone out in search of more sunsets than I care to remember since that incredible day, but nothing has come close to the wondrous pink and orange sky I saw that night.

A few weeks ago, we went to West Virginia, and again I searched for a sunset, though I didn't expect to rival the Horseshoe Bend experience. I have just been in such a long sunset drought that I was willing to take nearly anything! We hiked out to a rocky cliff that overlooks the mountain ridge and setup for the (hopeful) show. 

The sunset that night didn't come close to threatening the supremacy of Horseshoe Bend, but it had a characteristic that I found I loved. Instead of vibrant and exhilarating colors, this sunset was a soft glow that created a warm blue light throughout the mountain ridge. It was inviting...the sort of sunset that I could imagine watching from a rocking chair on the front porch of a country home. Looking out over this West Virginia landscape, I found myself humming the lyrics to the famous song "take me home, country roads, to the place, I call home....West Virginia."

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Finnish Architecture

I 100% do not consider myself an architecture photographer - but I do like to capture little details in a local culture that tell you something about the place.

Finland is a fantastic country with so many incredible places to see and explore. The people here are also unlike any others I've met anywhere else in the world - bubbly, optimistic, friendly, and nature lovers. My kind of people!

Anyway, these photos were all taken on a farm - the same farm, as a mini expose into how Finnish homes look. I think seeing these little bits of the architecture tell you more about the culture and the people who live here than a zoomed out photograph of the whole farm. 

What do you think? Can you envision their farm?

ST Road Trip: Start of the Trip!

Well it was a long flight, but, all things considered, was a good one. Heathrow security didn't nuke my huge pile of film, our flight was on time, and our luggage made it without hiccup. Really, the only surprise of the day came from the cab driver, who was a bit pissy that we had all this luggage and were only going a few miles down the road. He was gung-ho to drive us until he heard the destination, then tried to play games with the tip. C'Mon man.

Anyway, we're working hard to adjust to the 8 hour time difference, do some last minute shopping  / errands, and preparing to start the adventure. There are so many logistics involved in a project like this - from having trail routes pre-mapped and downloaded to figuring out where there are grocery stores and when to re-stock. I am amazed that (so far) I haven't thought of anything we forgot to pack.... we'll be sure to post pics and videos with a tour of the van when we're all moved in!

Assuming we have a little bit of free time today, we'll try to visit Venice Beach and see that popular area of LA.

Make sure you keep an eye on Instagram and Twitter.... or keep coming back here!

Quick Shot: Alone

It was a long hike to get this photo.....well, it was a long hike where I got this photo! After several miles of uphill through a swampy and overgrown mountainside in Wales, I began descending a steep rock face. Looking up along the cliff during my descent, I found this lone tree perched on the cliff. A lone tree would have been photographic, but the bizarre crooked shape of this tree really made the shot!

Photographed with the Leica SL and Leica f/0.95 Noctilux lens. 

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Quick Shot: Reflections

Walking along the fishing port of Alesund, Norway, there was no shortage of photographic opportunities. Wooden boats, fishing supplies, and dilapidated buildings are a photographers dream..... but in the middle of that dream I found this window into another world.

The mid-afternoon sun that far north creates some wonderful light and incredible colors, so I didn't have to work too hard for this photograph. Shot with the Leica Q.

Quick Shot: Oh The Legs!

Amsterdam is famous for many things..... drugs, booze, tolerance and sex.  Although I previously covered the sex part of Amsterdam in my post about the Red Light District, I think it's worth (partially) revisiting for this photograph. I'm all about humor and irony in a photograph, and this was one of those times that I couldn't stop chuckling as I framed the shot. Why? Well it's a bunch of legs, and for a city known for promiscuity, I thought this was a very fitting image of Amsterdam. If I didn't tell you anything more, you could mistakenly think these legs belonged to some of Amsterdam's sex workers, complete with pricing.

In actuality, its a store selling women's stockings. And taken anywhere else, this photograph doesn't have the same story!

Photographed with the Leica Q

Quick Shot: Gold of the Sea

Norway's climate can act a bit bipolar - ranging from extreme heat to bitter cold by the seasons (and elevation), which makes a lot of traditional agriculture very difficult. In the coastal fjords, farmers can plant fruits like apples along the more fertile land near the water, but the good farm land is limited.

With such limited farming on land, one of the main economic supports in Norway instead comes from the sea in the form of Norwegian salmon. The pink fish is abundant in Norway's costal waters, making it the golden cash 'crop' for most Norwegians. 

Norway's dependance on fishing as a source of income was very apparent during my travels - evidence of the fishing culture were as abundant as the fish themselves. Because Norway's salmon industry is so well known, it became an icon I wanted to focus on shooting during my travel through the coastal towns.

Today I'm sharing a selection of scenes I photographed to capture the fishing scene in Norway. The images in this collection were photographed with either the Leica SL or Leica Q, depending on the image.

Moonrise over Alesund, Norway - this was taken around midnight, showing the effect of the "midnight sun" in the far north. The buildings in the foreground are fishing warehouses.

Some rusted chain lays abandoned in a dockyard along the canals of Alesund, Norway

"BO" - part of the bow of a large commercial fishing vessel docked in Alesund.

Some fishermen stop for a break in the markets of Bergen, Norway.

Fishing cages stacked behind a home in Alesund

King crab legs for sale at a fish market in Bergen. Despite mass availability of king crab and salmon, the prices weren't very good - a kilo of crab cost around $90 US Dollars.

Quick Shots: Red Light District

Warning: NOT work appropriate!

I spent this evening in Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District learning about the life women sex workers live. Out of respect for the women, I didn't photograph them, but I did take some photographs to capture the symbols of their lives and work.

As a woman, this was a very emotional shoot - I wondered about the women standing in the windows and what led them to be there. I glared with suspicion at the pimps. And I asked myself how to best capture this range of emotions in photographs. Each photograph is captioned with more information.

Post your comments and let me know what these photographs leave you thinking about the RLD.

All photos with the Leica Camera Q.

 

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Quick Shot: Dali's Tree II

I photographed this tree on film a year ago and dubbed it the Salvador Dali tree because of it's bizarre shape and surrealistic look. So when I returned to the Lake District this year, I was happy to see that the "Dali Tree" is still alive and crooked!

Shot with the Leica SL

Quick Shot: Never Too Late To Turn Around

I hate nothing more than a blown opportunity at a photograph. To think about the photos that "should have been" makes me sad and frustrates every part of my creative spirit. So, as a general rule, I try to avoid "should have been" photos.  

I flirted dangerously with a "should have" photo while in the Lake District. I had done the research to find a great location to setup for sunset and I went out an hour before sunset to setup and prepare for whatever Mother Nature had in store for me. The sun was slated to set around 9pm- at 8:30 it was looking pretty bad. The sky was full of a thick layer of grey clouds - the sun was lost behind it and there was no color to be seen. Cold and downtrodden, I called it around 8:40 - there was no way this dull sky was going to amount to anything. 

As I drove back to the campsite, my friend and I got busy chatting about the otherwise good day. About 10 minutes into the drive, I looked in the rear view mirror and all I saw was neon pink...... The sky had turned a shade of pink I had never seen before - I was incredible - and here I am driving AWAY from it! At this point the sun is about to set, but I peeled a quick U-Turn and hauled ass back to the spot we'd been setup at earlier. Thankfully I arrived in time to get some great shots of the neon pink reflecting off the water - there is very little editing in the images below... It was that good! 

There's a lesson here..... Don't give up on your photograph. And if you do, it's okay to turn the car around!  

Shot with the Leica SL and Leica f/0.95 Noctilux Lens.

Yes, it really did look like that. Very minimal edits done to this image.....

Yes, it really did look like that. Very minimal edits done to this image.....

The last drops of pink in the sky. I love how it turned the water pink.

The last drops of pink in the sky. I love how it turned the water pink.

Quick Shot: Desert Panorama

I don't shoot a ton of panoramas, but if the location is right and I'm in the mood, I'll compile the odd panorama image. In this case, I had climbed a cliff in Wadi Rum, Jordan to enjoy sunset over the desert and happened to have a tripod handy, so I fired away.

The resulting image is 111 megapixels..... it's the composite of nearly 20 images, and the detail is phenomenal. In the full sized image, you can zoom way in and see a guy riding a horse out in the desert. Of course the full sized image is also 700 megabytes, which is a bit much for sharing on the internet! So you're seeing a compressed and smaller version here, but be sure to click on the image to maximize it to the full screen view. I'm glad I made this panorama - I can print it to wallpaper size and really let myself get absorbed in the experience of standing atop that cliff. I hope this view helps you experience what it would have been like to enjoy that sunset by my side.

Shot with the Leica Camera SL & Leica 24-90mm lens using a 3 Legged Things tripod.

Quick Shot: Petra's Secret

I remember the moment that I found out that this grand site, and home to the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones movies, was actually a real place. When I discovered this place, named Petra, was located deep in the desert of Jordan, I assumed I would never have a chance to see it.

Alas, my chance came.... I had an opportunity to overnight in the south of Jordan and see Petra. It was even more grand in person, and I still have to pinch myself over the fact that I actually saw it. When I got to the treasury, which is the most famous building, I decided to shoot it with the waved rock cliffs to frame the shot. In my mind, it's this view that makes Petra so magical - the site of this grand structure built into a cliff that is only accessible by walking through a towering tunnel of orange sandstone.

This may be one of my favorite images, both for sentimental value, but also because it truly embodies the sights of Petra. Be sure to Like and comment to let me know what you think!

Shot with Leica Camera SL.

Quick Shot: Venice Sunrise Finale

For the past several mornings, I have awoken early and gone out in the bitter cold and rain hoping to catch a colorful sunrise over Venice. And for the past several mornings, my efforts have been rewarded with grey skies and rain.

Today was different. Although it was the coldest morning here, the rain had passed and a thin layer of light and fluffy clouds dotted the horizon. The sky began to turn a magnificent orange and I had a few seconds as the sun poked over the top of the horizon to get these shots with the famous Venetian gondola's in the foreground.

Here's the best part...... this image is natural! No HDR here folks, just a little crop and some sharpening. It really was spectacular! Shot on a Leica MP240 with 24mm f/2.8 lens.

Quick Shot: Natural Illusion

Here's something you don't see everyday...... the Campanile di San Marco (aka the San Marco Square clocktower), twice.

Wait. What?

With the exception of a crop and conversion to black and white, this image is 100% authentic as it came from the camera. Any guesses what is going on here?

Shot with a Leica MP240 and Leica 24mm f/2.8 lens.

Day 1: Tanzanian Coffee and Villages

Wow! Today was an incredible cultural experience and there is almost no way for me to do it justice via words, but I’ll try! Our day started with a pickup by our driver and guide, Max, who took us up to see a coffee plantation and tour some of the villages that dot theslopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The drive up the mountain was incredibly bumpy and I was certainly appreciative of the 4x4 safari vehicle. We passed some very small villages of local Tanzanians in the middle of their daily business, including gentlemen carrying the head of a freshly killed cow, kids going to school, and women gathering grasses to feed their cows. 

At the top of the mountain we parked and started a walk to one of the local waterfalls. The hike took us passed even more huts and small family dwellings where we had a chance to really experience the life of a local. Words cannot begin to describe how different this was from everything I’m accustomed to seeing in the western world, which made it incredibly powerful. For instance, most of the houses had limited electricity and flushing toilets were regional and shared by multiple people outside the house. I saw one radio (that was probably from the 1970s) and no televisions. Access to the internet and cellular networks is extremely limited. Most of the women didn’t have shoes and it was obvious that much of the wardrobe originated as a donation from a western country. For instance, we saw t-shirts from a Halloween party in Chicago and a lacrosse high school team and I’m 100% certain they were charitable donations that eventually found their way across the oceans.

While the waterfall we saw was spectacular and very pretty, the cultural immersion was far more powerful to experience. We had fantastic guides who were happy to talk to us about their lives. Here’s a sample of “fun facts” we picked up during the day:

  • A family here can have upwards of 20 children, although most will have more like 7 kids. Men who have many cattle are allowed to marry multiple wives.
  • A well-to-do family here will make 2 million Tanzanian Shillings a year. That equates to about $1,000 USD. Many families here live on less than $1USD per day.
  • While schooling in Tanzania is free, parents need to pay for books and uniforms, which can cost $50/year per kid. The economics mean many kids won’t get an education; a family living on $1 a day can’t exactly afford the fringe costs of education.
  • A favorite drink is a beer made from dried millet and sweet banana. We got to taste some and while the beer wasn’t exactly my favorite, they had a banana wine that I found more appealing.
  • The coffee farms here are hardly what we’d call a farm in the United States; it was a cluster of a handful of bushes and coffee beans were sold to a larger coffee company that distributes it worldwide. For the family we saw, this season yielded approximately 150kg of coffee, which is their only source of income for the year.
  • Many families will keep their cattle inside their house and have the house serve as the cage. This is so they can collect the dung for fertilization.
  • In Moshi, women sell a variety of things from shoes to pants. To advertise their sales, they will carry one of the items on their head - so we saw some women carrying a single shoe on their head. Apparently size isn’t an issue here either, you buy shoes because you like them, not because they fit.
  • Election season is approaching in Tanzania and we passed a pickup truck blaring some music and slogans. We asked and apparently the truck was driving around to remind residents to register to vote.
  • Coffee is a big cash crop here, but corn provides the major food source for locals.

After the hike, we visited the coffee farm of one of the local residents. Farm is a very generous term because it is not the sort of farm we are accustomed to seeing in the west. The farm consisted of a dozen small bushes that they pick the coffee bean from. Once the beans are picked, they use a hand mill to remove the bean from the outer shell and then wash the beans. Any beans that float are bad and have been affected by one of the parasites, while sinking beans are good. After they soak for a few days, they are set out to dry. Finally, they are roasted over an open fire for 15 minutes and then crushed (by hand) into coffee grounds. Watching the process as they made us a cup of coffee gave me a new appreciation for this drink and you can’t help but think that instant coffee makes these people furious!

Having a day completely immersed in the lifestyle of the local villagers who live around Mt. Kilimanjaro was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had traveling. Even my travels through the Middle East have been relatively “normal,” but seeing people who may not live to be older than 50 and who live on so little was truly eye opening. I almost felt guilty using a camera that cost three times their annual income to photograph them! Yet despite their situation, they never sounded sorry for themselves. Seeing people who have such a different view of the world and their lives is an experience that will stay with me for an eternity. 

Unfortunately the wifi at our current hotel is very slow, so I can only share a fraction of the photos I took of the adventure, so I’m sharing these to wet the appetite and more will follow when internet improves.

The daughter of a coffee farmer sits on the mud step outside her hut

The daughter of a coffee farmer sits on the mud step outside her hut

A woman who is probably in her 50's was shucking corn shells by hand while her sons work the coffee farm

A woman who is probably in her 50's was shucking corn shells by hand while her sons work the coffee farm

Some village children sitting by the side of the road. They were very amused and curious to watch the white people since they see so few tourists.

Some village children sitting by the side of the road. They were very amused and curious to watch the white people since they see so few tourists.

A woman carrying a bunch of grasses over her head as she walks home to feed her cattle. Many cattle live in the huts with the family, so the food has to be brought to the cattle. 

A woman carrying a bunch of grasses over her head as she walks home to feed her cattle. Many cattle live in the huts with the family, so the food has to be brought to the cattle.